What strange and wonderful birds inhabited my dreams last night -- the happy residue of nothing more exotic than my having filled the feeders yesterday and seen a cardinal at one of them. Look, I said to someone beside me, a Giant Goldfinch! There is not and never has been such a thing as a Giant Goldfinch, but this one was easily the size of a raven, and its gold color was brilliant and metallic -- real gold. It flew shyly off into the bushes when my companion turned to see. I turned my head, and there was another remarkable bird: enormous, big as a Thanksgiving turkey, only brilliant yellow and red, with lovely long blue tail feathers. It was on the ground, but it spread its wings and flew over to me. I closed my eyes -- just in case this turned out to be one of those Alfred Hitchock dreams -- but the great bird came to rest beside me and stayed there, its glorious feathers soft against my skin, its round body warmer than birds' bodies ever really are, its deep blue eyes shining.
Jung thought that all of the beings we encounter in our dreams are aspects of ourselves -- makes sense, actually, since the dreams come from within us. But he also thought that there was a collective unconscious, a psychic landscape that we all share -- so our dreams don't just come from us, they also come through us. Certainly that's what the people in the Bible think: they get lots of their information from dreams, and base important decisions on their interpretation. From Joseph the dreamer to Joseph the earthly father of Jesus, from the wise men to St Peter and St Paul, people in scripture dream and act on what they dream.
How do I act on my lovely bird dream? One bird left and one bird stayed. One bird was the color of money -- oh, that's right! I had counted out a half dozen gold dollar coins in the taxi yesterday! Just that color! And I had felt a bit guilty about the taxi, had planned to walk and save that money, but I was late to my appointment. I am concerned about money these days, as is everyone else. We've just cancelled an expensive trip we had planned: we find that we must buy a new car instead. The money just flies away.
But one bird stayed. Large and warm, friendly, brilliantly colored. I saw him after the Giant Goldfinch flew away. Who is he? Well, me, I guess, if it's true that everyone in my dreams is somehow me: he is what I have left, which is considerable. He is the richness of my life which has nothing to do with gold. He is warm and present. He is beautiful. And I remember his amazing wingspan, now that I'm thinking about it: the power in his chest muscles where the wings attach, the majesty of their slow flapping. He is powerful, the bird who stays. There are things more powerful in life than money.
I often play the game "What could I do without?" My house? My favorite pretty things in it? The old car? Oh, yes. I could lose them all and still find beauty in life. The people I love? My imagination shies away from that picture, but it will one day be true: I will die or they will. We all lose each other in the end. We all lose everything.
Except the bird who stays. We don't lose him. Ah -- now I know who he is.
Glorify the Lord, O Chill and Cold! -- A Quiet Day this Saturday, the 23rd at Christ and St Stephen's, NYC, 9-3pm
The weather outside may be frightful, but a small green shoot of spring lies nestled deep in the heart of all that icy brown. There is no better time to ponder the glory of nature than when one is most deprived of it, and that would be January in New York City.
Snug and warm, we will look at the ways scripture talks about nature, animals, plants, farming and outer space, and perhaps emerge with a hopeful sense of our own place in God's grand scheme of things. Hot cocoa will be provided.
The Quiet Day is free of charge, but ADVANCE REGISTRATION IS REQUIRED. To register, telephone: 212 787-2755, ext. 0. Registration deadline is 5:00 pm, Thursday, January 21
And now, for something completely different:
Do you live in the Philadelphia area? Join me and other rockin' Geranium Farmers on Saturday, January 30 at the Colonial Theater in Phoenixville for an all-60s show by the British Invasion Tribute band. Beatles, Stones, Kinks, Zombies, Herman's Hermits -- our kids will never truly understand just how cool we were! Get tix online at http://www.thecolonialtheatre.com/. Show is at 8, and we'll be at the pub next door at 6ish for a pre-show on-your-own chowdown.